Some Chronic Pain Patients Say They Have Trouble Obtaining Painkillers

Medicine Bottle with Hydrocodone Label and Tablets

Some patients with chronic pain say they are having increasing trouble obtaining prescription painkillers. This trend may be an unintended consequence of the government’s attempts to reduce illicit use of prescription drugs, PBS NewsHour reports.

Bill Napier, who owns the independent Panama Pharmacy in Jacksonville, Florida, says drug wholesalers who supply his store no longer distribute the amount of medication he needs. “I turn away sometimes 20 people a day,” he said.

Napier says last year agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) came to discuss the narcotics he dispensed. “They showed me a number, and they said that if I wasn’t closer to the state average, they would come back. So I got pretty close to the state average,” he said. Napier acknowledges he had to dismiss some patients in order to get to the required number.

Until several years ago, Florida was considered a haven for “pill mills,” which sold prescription painkillers to people directly for cash. Oxycodone-related deaths in Florida increased 118.3 percent from 2007 to 2010.

The rate began to decline in 2010 due to a variety of factors, including the introduction of abuse-deterrent oxycodone formulations, law enforcement crackdowns on “pill mills,” and a Florida law that imposed new penalties for physicians who overprescribe medication.

Jack Riley, acting deputy administrator of the DEA, says an increase in law enforcement activity has led to the decline in opioid overdose deaths in Florida. He says law enforcement efforts are not to blame for rationing painkillers.

“I’m not a doctor. We do not practice medicine. We’re not pharmacists. We obviously don’t get involved in that,” he said. “What we do do is make sure the people that have the licenses are as educated as possible as to what we’re seeing, and that they can make informed decisions as they do dispense.”

10 Responses

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    Rob Hall

    August 14, 2015 at 8:14 PM

    It’s interesting to me that in the blogosphere, the folks who are pro-recreational drug use claim there’s no connection between Rx drug abuse and heroin.
    Yet many of the same people claim that cutting off the supply of Rx drugs to recreational users is directly to blame for deaths from heroin overdoses.

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    August 13, 2015 at 4:24 PM

    Just because we only know of one person who has died from a prescription medication over dose does not mean that over dose with prescription medication is not prevalent. I do not right of hand how often it occurs but it is not rare. I think it may happen less than heroin over dose for the simple reason that street drugs does not have quality assurance so people do not know what they are getting.

    An acquaintance of mine Charley died of an over dose in Miami several decades ago. He bought transparent cap. The users called the Cuban Cap. Unknown to Charlie the first cap he shot had only 3% heroin. Apparently he was not satisfied so he shot the second cap he bought. Miami is in a federal program that I can not recall the name right now, but it is run by a gentleman Jim Hall, from Upfront Drug Information. Turns out that the second cap had 60%
    heroin. Apparently the batch was not mix well. Charlie died, am sure he didn’t know he died.

    But over the counter medication is not a rare condition. The Nalaxon/Naltrexon programs are quite aware of the Prescription Drug overdose and are very sensitive to the fact that people that take prescription medication sometimes forget that they took one dose so they take another and some time even a third. By the time they have taken more than the dose they are use to, their memory does not improve it worsen. So that it how overdose form prescription medication sometimes happen. There maybe other reason, I tell you it is not a rare condition and Overdose Programs are quite aware that people are dying from prescription drugs accidents.

    One of the problem with trying to figure out what is worse is that you do not have the research data, you only have your personal experience. There is way too many cognitive limitations that humans have and their decisions are usually based on those limitation plus Confirmation Bias and Correlational Illusion amongst other problems humans.

    That is a problem when clinicians only depend on their own cognitions to make decision on patients treatment and discharges. Science and research is the best tool we have against human error. Yet clinicians are basically science illiterates. Am so alarm the more I hear clinicians talk about their judgment and decision making the more I become concern.

    Seem like clinicians seem to be afraid about bad news of their profession and therefore seem to be in some sort of denial. In 2010 I became aware of a book by Garb W Studying the Clinicians: Judgment Research. The book was twelve years old and it came from Nova University Clinical Library. I was surprised that I was the first person who ever checked out the book. I would think and I hope that I am wrong that most clinicians that should be aware about Clinical errors and judgment research maybe totally oblivious to the problem

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    August 10, 2015 at 12:58 PM

    The heroin overdoses are far more worse than the pills were. I only know one person that passed away due to an overdose on pain pills. However, I know approximately at least one person a week, for the past 9 months or so, that has not only overdosed, but lost their lives due to this heroin epidemic. Taking the “pill mills” down made everyone who was cut off from their prescriptions turn to heroin, because of the lack of supply and the prices being jacked up over double what they were on the streets.

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    Billy, RPh, CACII

    August 7, 2015 at 2:17 PM

    I wholeheartedly agree with AddictionMyth in regard to the ineffectiveness of the “crackdown” on Rx opioids. In fact, compared to 2008 there were approximately 7000 more deaths that INVOLVED (NOT CAUSED BY) Rx opioids plus illegal drugs like Heroin and Cocaine. Looks like drug abusers actually believed what government officials said about the mythical Rx opioid “epidemic”: “…there are more deaths INVOLVING Rx opioids than heroin and cocaine combined”. This is what can happen when you try to scare people with inaccurate information.
    It also does not surprise me that the arrogance of the DEA does not allow them to take responsibility for things mentioned above. The not-so-well-disguised scare tactics and intimidation by this group towards doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies has assured these medical professionals that if they do not “toe the line” their license will be in jeopardy. Sadly, I don’t see this being corrected any time soon.

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    August 6, 2015 at 1:37 PM

    Thank you for shining a light on this important topic. The reduction in Oxy deaths is offset by heroin overdoses by people who are forced into the black market after getting cut off by their doctors and pharmacists. So the crackdown doesn’t have the positive benefits that are promised.

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